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Northwestern University

Frequently Asked Questions


General Questions

Does Northwestern offer merit aid?

Northwestern scholarship funds are awarded in accordance with our need-based financial aid policy. However, Northwestern is an institutional sponsor of National Merit Scholarships. In addition, the School of Music awards a number of talent scholarships to incoming students with outstanding performance in auditions.

I'm an international student. Can I apply for financial aid?

Yes – if you are applying before your first year as an early decision or regular decision student. However, funding is limited. See the International Student page for more information.

Does Northwestern offer fee waivers?

For the CSS Profile Application, the College Board  will automatically offer fee waivers to first-time applicants that meet their requirements, based on the financial information entered into the Profile. Northwestern does not offer fee waivers or fund codes for submitting the CSS Profile.
For information about fee waivers for the Northwestern admission application, please visit the Office of Undergraduate Admission website.


I have missed the deadline to apply for financial aid. What should I do?

It is never too late to apply for financial aid. Follow the steps outlined in the Apply for Aid section. However, if aid funds are limited, priority will be given to families who met the deadlines. Tuition deposit deadlines will not be extended.

I was admitted Early Decision but completed my financial aid application late. When will I receive my financial aid award notice?

Congratulations on your admission! If you applied for financial aid but have not yet received your financial aid award, log in to CAESAR and check your To Do items for missing documents, and review the Early Decision application procedures page. If you completed your application late or very recently, we will review your completed materials as soon as possible after the new year.

The CSS Profile/FAFSA asks for my tax information but I haven't done my taxes yet. How can I fill out the form? Can I submit it after the deadline?

Instead of submitting these forms late, fill them out using your best estimates of your tax information. Most people can do this by using their prior year taxes and their last paystub for the tax year. You should still submit copies of both your parents' and your actual taxes by March 5.

Application Materials

I need to send my FAFSA to more than 10 schools. I already submitted my FAFSA to Northwestern – can I remove Northwestern and add other schools?

Yes. If you already submitted your FAFSA with Northwestern listed, that copy of your FAFSA will be sent to Northwestern. After submitting your FAFSA online, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) via email within 3-5 business days, after it has been processed and sent to your first 10 schools. Once you receive your SAR, log back in to your FAFSA and click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” Remove one or more of the colleges listed, add the additional school codes, and resubmit.

The CSS Profile told me to have my mother/father complete a Noncustodial Parent's Statement but she/he is unwilling to provide the information and/or I have no contact with my noncustodial parent. What should I do?

Northwestern expects that both parents will contribute to the student's educational expenses to the extent that they are able. If the noncustodial parent is unwilling to fill out the form or provide support to the student, please call our office at (847) 491-7400 to discuss the situation with a counselor.

My parents are divorced and my custodial parent has remarried. Whose information should be used on the CSS Profile and FAFSA forms?

Federal regulations require that the forms be completed with information about the custodial parent's household. Therefore, if your custodial parent has remarried, information about his/her spouse should be included on the forms.

Accepting Aid

Should I accept/decline the award even though I will be submitting a Change of Circumstances?

Yes, accept the financial aid award you receive even if you plan to submit information regarding a change of circumstances. We want to keep track of the current level of our committed funds so that we will know what funds are still available. The financial aid award letter is not a contract but a confirmation that you have received and reviewed the information it contains.

What should I do if I accept the loan portion of my award but want to borrow less than I was offered?

If you were offered a Stafford or a Perkins loan, you can reduce loan amounts when you accept your award online. If you decide to borrow less after accepting the loan, please email your request to our office from your Northwestern email account.

What does the cash management question mean?

By selecting "I authorize" on your financial aid award, you are simply authorizing the Office of Student Accounts to apply federal financial aid funds to other fees that might be assessed on your billing account (i.e., library fines, past due phone bill, etc.). We are required to ask this question and record your response, but it does not affect your aid in any way.

My aid seems fine for my freshman year but what will my aid be like for the next three years?

If your family's financial circumstances have not changed much from year to year, you can expect a similar package. Fluctuations of income, assets, family size, and number of students in college may affect your aid package.

You should provide as much information as possible about your unique circumstances at the time you submit your financial aid application. The Financial Aid Office will consider this information when assessing the expected family contribution. For more information on how the expected family contribution is determined, please see the Financial Eligibility page.

Reapplication Procedure

Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes. If you are currently receiving financial aid, reapplication instructions for the following year will be sent to you during the month of February.

How do I check on the status of my aid application?

You are encouraged to log onto CAESAR and check your "To-Do List" for a breakdown of any missing application materials.

I am not currently receiving aid, but my family’s financial circumstances have changed. Can I apply after the deadline?

Yes, you may be considered for financial aid at any time. However, funds are limited and you may not be considered for all programs.


How many quarters of financial aid may I receive?

For entering freshman, financial aid is generally renewable for up to 12 quarters of enrollment unless you are admitted to a program that requires more than 12 quarters for completion.

Am I eligible for aid if I'm only taking one class?

A student must be enrolled in a minimum of two classes in order to receive federal and institutional aid. The only exception is the Federal Pell Grant, which may be available to qualifying part-time students.

My parents have told me they will no longer support me. Can I be considered an independent student?

A student is considered to be independent for federal funding purposes if he or she is 24 years of age, a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, an orphan or ward of the court, has legal dependents other than a spouse, is married, or is a graduate student. However, a student entering Northwestern as a dependent student will remain dependent for institutional funding unless he/she can provide documentation of extreme mitigating circumstances. Unwillingness to pay on the part of a parent is not considered a sufficient reason for a student to be considered independent.

If I decide to participate in an off-campus program that carries academic credit, will my financial aid change?

Your aid will not be adjusted if you are participating in an internship or field studies program that carries academic credit during the academic year. However, if you are unable to participate in federal work-study, we may be able to replace your work-study allotment with additional need-based loan assistance.

I am planning to graduate at the end of the winter term. What will happen to my spring aid?

If you will be graduating early, your aid for terms of non-enrollment will be cancelled. Aid for the spring term cannot be reallocated for the fall and winter. If you are planning to graduate early, please be sure to notify our office as soon as possible.

Billing & Payment

I have a health insurance bill and I can't pay it. What should I do?

Students who cannot afford the cost of the Northwestern health plan can request assistance by submitting a Health Insurance Assistance Request Form directly to our office. If you submitted a certification signed by your parent(s) last year, you can appeal to the Financial Aid Committee Office indicating that your family's status remains the same. We use specific criteria in determining eligibility for assistance. To be considered for additional assistance for the academic year, your total family contribution must be $5,500 or less. The type of assistance provided to cover the additional health insurance costs will be based upon the availability of funds.

I want to be a Resident Assistant (RA); will my aid change?

As a RA, you are not charged for room and board. We take the average room and board figure used for financial aid and reduce your aid by that amount. We reduce self-help (subsidized loans and work-study) first. If additional adjustments are needed, the Northwestern Scholarship is reduced accordingly.

Scholarships & Grants

How will a faculty/staff rebate or a tuition benefit affect my aid award?

Faculty/staff rebates received on behalf of our students are considered additional resources, and the financial aid award must be adjusted. A faculty/staff rebate replaces University assistance first, and then reduces a student’s self-help (subsidized loans, Federal Work-Study).

If I receive an athletic scholarship from Northwestern, will it affect my need-based aid eligibility?

There are very strict regulations governing the awarding of athletic scholarships to students. It is important that you contact the appropriate coach to determine your eligibility.

Resident Assistants

Can I still borrow a student loan if my need has been fully met with NU scholarship assistance?

It is possible to borrow through the Federal Direct Loan program even if a loan is not initially offered. However, you may have to apply for the non-need based unsubsidized Federal Stafford loan which means you would be responsible for the interest while you are in school. Contact our office for information about your loan eligibility.

I have some self-help remaining and would like to keep my work-study job instead of taking a student loan. Is this possible?

Typically, the amount of time that needs to be devoted to Resident Assistant duties precludes your having a work-study job. However, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis. In order to be employed as a RA and hold a work-study position, you must receive written permission from your Area Coordinator indicating that work-study will not interfere with your RA duties, your studies or class attendance.

Summer Session

I am a Northwestern student and I would like to enroll in a summer program at another institution. Will Northwestern provide me with financial assistance?

No. We are not able to process aid for students studying at other United States campuses or abroad on unaffiliated programs.

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